Alpha Z Advisors offers an alternative to options investing

(GLOBALINTELHUB.COM) — Dover, DE 8/8/2017 — Global Intel Hub exclusive interview — Elite E Services sat down with Mike Connor, Principal and Senior AP of Alpha Z Advisors, LLC – a trading advisor offering alternative investments based on strategies incorporating research on price anomalies, behavioral biases and institutional practices. In November of last year, Alpha Z Advisors LLC was ranked #1 Options Strategies Category by Barclay Hedge, a service that tracks funds’ strategies. So we wanted to learn more about on the Alpha Z Advisors strategy, as we have always supported options as a great way to not only hedge investments but also provide additional alpha to any portfolio. Also, futures options are generally traded on regulated exchanges – unlike FX which are mostly traded over the counter (OTC).

Who is Mike Connor?

Professional risk manager and former member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, who has more than 40 years’ experience in the futures and options industry.

What is the story behind Alpha Z Advisors?

Professor William Ziemba started Alpha Z Advisors, LLC with trading capital from friends and family. The initial investors were individuals he knew from the academic world in addition to a few referrals from the initial investors. The fund has grown in size from trading profits from the initial capital without attracting new investors.

How has the performance been?

2015 had great performance, more than 100% return, but it probably will never happen again due to a management decision to reduce initial margin to equity risk.

Why has it been so consistent?

The fund primarily trades options based on CME’s S&P 500 E-mini contract. Trading centers around the extreme prices of puts on the E-mini contract. The big money in trading options is made from being long, but returns are inconsistent (but the risk is usually very well controlled). The consistent money is made by being short options, but it comes with risk, and to stay in the game the risk has to be controlled.

How do you control the risk?

By properly hedging the positions either with other options or a futures position, and by margin to equity control. Short (selling) options positions are no different than an insurance company policies – you are selling price insurance. Like any insurance company, we’re going to have occasional disasters, like Katrina – but they should be manageable. Over a long time horizon, well managed market disasters should not prevent us from continuing to perform. We have had our share of ups and downs, and fortunately we have been able to survive all drawdowns. Good risk control and position sizing are the most important factors in any trading campaign.

What factors may impact the strategies’ performance?

Implied Volatility. Volatility is opportunity, but left unchecked it can be a horrible threat.

Considering the results, why do you think there’s not larger AUM?

Until recently we have not solicited publicly. This is our first concentrated effort at soliciting investors. In addition, we put together a minimum account size so high ($250K for the managed account, $100K for the fund). Our account size should eliminate many potential investors. We are looking for sophisticated investors that can take a part of their portfolio and take greater risk for a higher return.

How can investors ‘prove’ that the performance is ‘real’ – is there an institutional My FX Book ? There’s been a lot of CTA frauds that were real CTAs but used fake performance to lure investors – what assurances can we offer them about Alpha Z?

All the accounts – all the funds’ assets – all the performance results are compiled every month by an independent CPA firm. The statements themselves can be verified by the FCM.

Positions are manually stress-tested intra-day.

What makes Alpha Z Advisors LLC different than other CTAs?

I’m not sure if that’s the case, we have a very professional trading plan. You can go to Amazon and buy books published by our founder Dr. William Ziemba, actually he’s published more than 50 books on statistical abnormalities and opportunities in the stock market. It certainly does not mean we cannot lose, or have losing open positions – we are going to have losing positions there is no way around it. But overall, if we can control the risk and keep margin to equity at a reasonable level we should be able to survive during the bad times. We have, I think, enough excess margin to sit through a significant rise in implied volatility and still survive, if the positions and margin to equity can be properly controlled. Like any market position whether it is options or futures an unexpected giant gap opening is always a threat to open market position’s stability.

What makes the strategy different?

Trades are well positioned and I believe are market entry timing is very good. Our exposure is laid out over a broad time horizon (we don’t trade in nearby month, for example). If futures were a bullseye, you’d have to hit the target almost dead center to make a profit, with options, you can just hit the wall and still make a profit – of course, only with properly controlled risk and other parameters. I do not know how other CTA’s manage their positions and stress test their market risk, but I am confident our process is robust. What we do is not magic, it’s simply neutralizing the risk as much as possible, and there is a number of ways we accomplish that. It is all about understanding what the options can do if they move against you, and how you can respond adverse market activity.

The execution is done by a professional service. One way we keep our costs down other than accounting, is to try and soft dollar expenses through a soft dollar basis.

Customers are free to choose any brokerage house they want that clears at the CME. If customers do not have any preference, we are happy to set them up with our preferred FCM.

For more information contact:

Mike Connor

312-470-6260

Or visit www.alphazadvisors.com

This article/interview is for information/educational purposes only and is privileged, confidential and proprietary. This article/interview is NOT an offer to sell or a solicitation of any investment products or other financial product or services, is NOT an official confirmation of any transaction, or an official statement. Past performance is not indicative of future results. There is a substantial high and unlimited level of risk of loss in trading commodity futures, options, options writing, equities and off-exchange foreign currency products; such trading is not suitable for all investors.  Investors should only invest money they can afford to lose.

Summary1:  Options investing is a difficult subject few dare to explore. In this candid interview we explore the innards of a real life options CTA.

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Related

We've been closely watching the Crypto Currency Market if you can call it that, with all the fake data, fraud, and related problems.  One thing stands out - it's not so different than FX, commodities, futures, or stocks.  Market dyn...

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies flash-crashed Saturday night, one day after the US Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC) sent subpoenas four cryptocurrency exchanges in an ongoing probe into bitcoin manipulation that began in late July - following the launch of bitcoin futures on the CME, according to the Wall Street Journal
CME’s bitcoin futures derive their final value from prices at four bitcoin exchangesBitstamp, Coinbase, itBit and KrakenManipulative trading in those markets could skew the price of bitcoin futures that the government directly regulates.
In delay reaction, Bitcoin fell as much as $433 or 5.6% in Saturday night trading, with some noting that the flash crash happened shortly after a 90th ranked crypto exchange, Coinrail, had suffered a "cyber intrusion", and was likely the more relevant catalyst for the crypto price drop.
While major Cryptocurrencies were down from 4.5 - 5.5%, Bitcoin Cash dropped over 8.4%. 
The CTFC subpoenas were issued after several of the exchanges refused to voluntarily share trading data with the CME after being asked last December. Of note, the CFTC regulates the CTC. 
According to the WSJ, the CME, which launched bitcoin futures in December, asked the four exchanges to share reams of trading data after its first contract settled in January, people familiar with the matter said. But several of the exchanges declined to comply, arguing the request was intrusive. The exchanges ultimately provided some data, but only after CME limited its request to a few hours of activity, instead of a full day, and restricted to a few market participants, the people added.
What is curious, is that if there was indeed manipulation since the launch of bitcoin futures, it was to the downside, as the price of cryptos peaked around the time the crypto futures were launched, and are down well over 50% in the 6 months since.
Coinbase in particular has been under the watch government regulators. On February 23, Coinbase sent an official notice to around 13,000 customers to notify them they were legally required to turn over their information to the IRS
The IRS had initially asked Coinbase in July 2017 to hand over even more detailed information on every one of its then over 500,000 users in an attempt catch those cheating on their taxes. However, another court order in Nov. 2017 reduced this number to around 14,000 “high-transacting” users, which the platform now reports as 13,000, in what Coinbase calls a “partial, but still significant, victory for Coinbase and its customers.”
Coinbase told the around 13,000 affected customers that the company would be providing their taxpayer ID, name, birth date, address, and historical transaction records from 2013-2015 to the IRS within 21 days. Coinbase’s letter to these customers encourages them “to seek legal advice from an attorney promptly” if they have any questions. Their website also states that concerns may also be addressed on Coinbase’s Taxes FAQ. The ongoing legal battle between Coinbase and the US government dates back to November, 2016, when the IRS filed a “John Doe summons” in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
On Feb. 13, personal finance service Credit Karma released data showing that only 0.04 percent of their customers had reported cryptocurrencies on their federal tax returns. 
And in April, former New York Attorney General, Eric "we could rarely have sex without him beating me" Schneiderman, launched a probe of 13 major cryptocurrency exchanges according to the Wall Street Journal - claiming that investors dealing in the fast-growing markets often don’t have the basic facts needed to protect themselves.
Former AG Schneiderman’s office said the program, called Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative,  is part of its responsibility to protect consumers and ensure the integrity of financial markets, and its goal is to ensure that investors can have a better understanding of the risks and protections afforded them on these sites.
CFTC Commissioner: Crypto is a "modern miracle"
While the CFTC, IRS and New York Attorney General's office are all cracking down on cryptocurrency exchanges, it seems to all be part of the government's embrace of virtual currencies.  Last week CFTC Commissioner Rostin Benham called cryptocurrencies a "modern miracleat the Blockchain For Impact Summit held at the UN in New York last week. 
But virtual currencies may – will – become part of the economic practices of any country, anywhere.  Let me repeat that:  these currencies are not going away and they will proliferate to every economy and every part of the planet.  Some places, small economies, may become dependent on virtual assets for survival.  And, these currencies will be outside traditional monetary intermediaries, like government, banks, investors, ministries, or international organizations.
We are witnessing a technological revolution.  Perhaps we are witnessing a modern miracle. -Rostin Benham
Rostin hinted at the upcoming legal action against the exchanges during his speech:
Under the CEA and Commission regulations and related guidance, exchanges have the responsibility to ensure that their Bitcoin futures products and their cash-settlement process are not readily susceptible to manipulation and the entity has sufficient capital to protect itself.  The CFTC has the authority to ensure compliance. In addition, the CFTC has legal authority over virtual currency derivatives in support of anti-fraud and manipulation including enforcement authority in the underlying markets.

Meanwhile, the official Bitcoin website removed references to Coinbase, Blockchain.com and Bitpay, according to Crypto News - only one of which, Coinbase, was subpoenaed. 
http://Bitcoin.org  just removed/censored the 2 largest US Bitcoin companies (@BitPay Payment processing and @coinbase Bitcoin Exchange). It’s a good move: Bitcoin Core is obviously no longer Bitcoin, and should ideally be removed from both @BitPay and @coinbase too.

The CFTC officially recognized bitcoin as a commodity in September of 2015 when it went after Coinflip for operating a platform for trading bitcoin options without the proper authorization. Since the agency effectively asserted its dominance over the bitcoin market with that decision, this is the first time it has given its blessing to an bitcoin options trading platform. Expect a burst of institutional trading activity to follow - especially since they approved institutional options trading in July
This post sponsored by Total Cryptos @ www.totalcryptos.com  

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